The Irish Times made a statement on the furore over copyrighting links online.

“We recognise that linking is the lifeblood of the online world and we encourage our digital community to share links as widely as possible. Therefore, The Irish Times does not see links as copyrightable and will not attempt to impose any restrictions on the posting elsewhere on the Internet of mere URLs that refer to its content,” said Hugh Linehan, online editor of The Irish Times.

The Irish Times money quote is that it:

“does not see links as copyrightable and will not attempt to impose any restrictions on the posting elsewhere on the Internet of mere URLs that refer to its content”

This contrasts with the National Newspapers of Ireland (of which the Irish Times is a member). Its position as restated yesterday, and based on its submission to the Copyright Review group is

NNI made a submission to the effect that our view of existing legislation is that the display and transmission of links does constitute an infringement of copyright and our existing copyright law should not be amended in the manner discussed in the Consultation Paper. We understand that some people do not agree with that interpretation of the law. Equally, there are others who do agree with it. As already indicated, the Committee itself acknowledged that there are divided views on this. We await, in due course, the final report from the Copyright Review Committee and await sight of whatever they might say or recommend on the point.

Just to be clear on the money quote

the display and transmission of links does constitute an infringement of copyright

With relation to the specific case of Women’s Aid the Irish Times article states

A page on the Women’s Aid website lists six of the organisation’s mentions in Irish newspapers in 2010. Some of the links on the page link to ElectricSearch – a clippings service run by Zenark, which claims to be “the UK and Ireland’s leading web intelligence and media monitoring solution”.

It’s factually true that NLI attempted to charge Women’s Aid for links, despite its attempts to dissemble on this point. This was the same issue as Brian Honan faced. NLI asked him for a licence fee for linking to articles.

My understanding is that there have been attempts to assert copyright over links in other jurisdictions before and that they have failed in each case.

It is interesting that Labour is to raise this in the Oireachtas, with Sean Kenny TD very correctly stating

“The world wide web, since its inception 20 years ago has revolved around one website linking to another via what is known as “hypertext”. It is the very lifeblood of the World Wide Web and for the NNI to claim that this could form a breach of copyright is nothing short of absurd, and bordering on the outrageous. It is also my view that this assertion has absolutely no basis in law.

Ironically though quoting Sean Kenny the IT piece mentioned above doesn’t actually link to it.

Due credit to Hugh Linehan and the Irish Times for engaging publicly on this and for the stance they have taken. Hopefully the Independent and Examiner and other papers involved will follow suit. I’m not holding out much hope for the NNI.

The key motivation behind everything is seen in the last paragraph of the Irish Times statement from yesterday.

The NNI’s steps to assert copyright take place in the context of pan-European efforts by newspaper publishers to lobby their respective governments to introduce laws that would oblige Google and other news aggregators to pay for links to content.

It’s litigation in lieu of innovation.